BY D’ARCY EGAN
This time of year, Connie Cornett and her volunteer arm of volunteers are under the gun. Kids around Ottawa County have not been to school since late April, where they are assured of a hot meal. The Ottawa County Family Advocacy Center (OCFAC) worked long and hard since to ensure all are fed.
“We have had this program going for about five years, providing lunches for kids in summer,” said Cornett, the executive director of the OCFAC in Port Clinton. “Last year we prepared and served about 300 lunches per week between the Oak Harbor, Port Clinton and Genoa areas.”
The COVID-19 pandemic tossed a massive monkey wrench into the program. Kids had to stay home, and the need for lunches became critical.
“Right now, we are packing and distributing 5,000 meals per week,” said Cornett. “We have a great group of volunteers and employees putting these bags together and taking them to three locations in Genoa, four locations in Oak Harbor, three in Port Clinton and one in Danbury.”
When the program began under the guidance of the late Chris Galvin of United Way, the lunches were given directly to the kids as they gathered at sites in each town. Cornett thoroughly enjoyed those lunches, giving her a chance to teach the kids crafts, play games and send children home with wide smiles.
“We have so many hungry children now, we knew that Grab & Go would be the only way to get them the food. And it’s not just school kids. We provide meals for kids from one to 18 years of age,” she said. “The youngest kids are often special needs kids, who need formula and diapers in summer.”
Missing is the interaction with the kids, the crafts and games. The Grab & Go system can’t match getting together with the youngsters, but the OCFAC couldn’t afford the much-needed program on donations only as it radically grew.
When Cornett and the OCFAC was asked to take over the program two years ago, it was still fairly small and existed only on donations of money and food. Just this month, assistance finally was available from the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) administered by the Ohio Department of Education.
“I sincerely hope that schools reopen in the fall,” said Cornett. “All of the schools in Ottawa County are amazing in what they do each school day before they get to educating kids,” said Cornett. “They provide breakfasts and lunches, and a huge amount of support before the text books are opened.
“Our hats should be off to them, for all of the things they do for our children all around the county.”
Donations of cash and food and volunteers are always welcomed by the OCFAC and its many support organizations, which include TNT Mentoring, CASA, Ticket to Success and GRAND Love.
Families can register for Grab & Go meals online at ottawacountyfamilyadvocacy.org web site or call 419-301-0225. Registration is a must in order to accurately calculate how many lunches are needed for each location.